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Iowa rules regarding voting rights for felons face challenges

Residents in Iowa may have heard about the recent legal challenges to the state's rules that currently prohibit convicted felons from voting. There are a lot of potentially problematic consequences that come with a felony conviction in Iowa, but losing the right to vote, potentially for a person's entire lifetime, is one that has raised a few eyebrows and now, a challenge to the Constitutionality of such a prohibition.

The ACLU has called Iowa's voting laws, which strip any convicted felon of their right to vote "the single biggest denial of civil rights in Iowa." Now, the ACLU is challenging the law in a recent lawsuit that they hope will reinstate the voting rights of some people with felony convictions in Iowa. They argue that the process in Iowa, which requires ex-felons to complete a lengthy application and meet certain other requirements, is unreasonable. Under Iowa laws, any felon is prohibited from voting, unlike most other states where only the most serious felony offenders lose their right to vote.

In one particularly disturbing case, a woman who was sentenced to probation for a felony but had completed her sentence, was unaware of the voting prohibition and voted for mayor of her town in the 2013 election. She was bewildered when she was later charged with perjury and lying on a voter registration form. She could have faced a minimum sentence of three years in prison, but a jury moved to acquit her for what they concluded was an honest mistake.

Hopefully Iowa will reconsider their strict voting laws and allow some rehabilitated felons to take part in the democratic process. This case also shows why people who face felony charges need to mount a strong defense, otherwise they may face longstanding consequences even after they serve their time.

Source: Des Moines Register "ACLU files lawsuit challenging Iowa felon-voting laws," Ryan J. Foley, Nov. 8, 2014

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